Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.
But when he comes, the Spirit of truth,
he will guide you to all truth.”
One of the things I learned quickly as a teacher was that I would make myself crazy if I took on the responsibility of making sure every student understood everything I thought they should know before they left my class. I’m never the last word, and I’m never the only influence in someone’s religious development. I know that other people will pick up where I’ve left off, and I know that people learn lessons when they’re ready to. So I try to create fertile soil, and sprinkle a few seeds that I think will bear the most fruit.
We all learn when we’re ready. The lessons we tend to remember are the ones which accompany crisis. When my heart has had mercy of which I didn’t know it was capable, I have learned more about the wideness of God’s mercy. When I have lost a piece of my identity, I have learned more about my true identity as a child of God.
Some people think that these crises are planned out ahead of time, that God’s willingness to be boxed into the cliché “everything happens for a reason” causes a divine plan of heartbreak and catastrophe. I don’t believe that, but I believe that our tragedies can be redeemed through some positive outcome.
I’m not quite sure I’m ready to side with Paul’s “rejoicing in affliction” that we also find in this weekend’s readings, but I am willing to concede that
affliction produces endurance,
and endurance, proven character,
and proven character, hope,
and hope does not disappoint,
because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
It’s so tempting to try to dump knowledge and even wisdom onto people – any people, not just students – or to be annoyed when someone doesn’t know yet what you think they should know. But we’re not the ones who are the ultimate teachers: the Spirit is. God didn’t expect us to be ready all at once, to be perfectly formed right away.
Fortunately for us wisdom finds delight in the human race, and creates for us a playground of learning and discovery. There, the Spirit guides us forward, dancing, playing, weeping and toiling alongside we humans on the path of knowledge, discipleship, and God.